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CABI’s expertise in plant health management has been highlighted at a symposium at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels which was held to mark International Day of Plant Health.

Dr MaryLucy Oronje, CABI’s scientist in Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, spoke about examples of plant health networks and activities from Africa to tackle a range of crop pests and diseases including fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) on maize and Fusarium oxysporum (Foc TR4) affecting bananas.

She presented at the symposium – hosted by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU – under the theme ‘Plant Health Without Borders: International collaboration to underpin policy at national, regional and international level.’

In addition, Dr Janny Vos, CABI’s partnerships development director, attended the symposium to highlight CABI’s collaborations with several key partners in its international plant health endeavours, among which European Commission, EUPHRESCO, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Plant health without borders

Dr Dirk Ramaekers, Secretary-general of the Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment, extended the invitation for Dr Oronje to speak – stating that the symposium would look beyond the borders of plant health and highlight its interconnections with human, environmental and animal health.

The EU Horizon Europe project EUPHRESCO III was also presented aiming to enhance national, regional, and global phytosanitary research coordination through fit-for-purpose activities.


Dr MaryLucy Oronje presenting at the symposium.

Dr Oronje said frameworks, like the IPPC and International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs), are essential in providing guidelines for standardisation and harmonisation of regulations, standards and protocols for plant health management across countries, thereby facilitating safe international trade.

“The need for international collaboration and coordination in plant health management has become more urgent today than ever. The rapid globalisation of trade increased international travel and changing climatic circumstances all catalyse accelerated spread of insect pests, pathogens, and invasive species,” she said.

She added that maintaining an effective plant health system under such circumstances requires robust and well-coordinated management strategies, enabled through national, regional, and international collaboration.

The case of fall armyworm

Dr Oronje said, “The case of fall armyworm demonstrates the benefit of international collaboration and multidisciplinary approach. The pest was initially detected in 2016 in Nigeria and with limited knowledge about its biology, behaviour, and management strategies, the pest rapidly spread to other countries across the continent in 2017.

“The ensuing international multi-institutional collaboration enabled rapid pest identification, monitoring, and the development of management strategies and approaches. International collaboration is ongoing on aspects of Integrated Pest Management, breeding for resistance, surveillance, and monitoring including the use of biological control agents and biopesticides.”

Dr Vos highlighted the CABI-led PlantwisePlus programme is currently working with national-level stakeholders in over 10 countries to promote system’s approach to plant health management by catalyzing collaboration between national plant health stakeholders.

“The implementation of Plantwise has provided important lessons, demonstrating the power of harnessing plant health expertise resident in different partner organisations including private sector and highlighting how overlapping institutional frameworks and mandates may delays action and cross learning,” she said.

Dr Oronje highlighted how regional networks – geared towards facilitating plant health without borders – are also getting traction in the continent.

SPS technical working group

Recently, the East African Community (EAC) established a SPS technical working group to improve the coordination of SPS systems between its Partner States, the specific objective of which is to enhance coordination and response to SPS challenges and crise.

Meanwhile, at the continental level, the African Union Inter-African Phytosanitary Council (AU-IAPSC), she said, is instrumental in the coordination of plant health activities among the Member States of the African Union (AU).

This is facilitated, for example, through collaboration with 54 National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPO), establishing phytosanitary systems and reduced phytosanitary risks.

At the global level, Dr Oronje said the CABI BioProtection Portal, in providing information on registered biocontrol and biopesticide products in countries, is a good example of effective collaboration and partnership between the private and public sector and international organisations.

She concluded her presentation by stating that: “Strengthening existing partnerships, fostering new alliances, and mobilizing resources for joint initiatives can enhance resilience and promote universal plant health.

“This is in addition to fostering collective commitment of stakeholders to work together based on common goals and hinged on inclusive and equitable partnerships that prioritize the well-being of people, plants, and the planet.”

She said the approach should be multifaceted, involving governments, international organizations, research institutions, NGOs, and other stakeholders.


Additional information

Main image: Fall armyworm is a formidable pest of many major crops including maize (Credit: CABI).